Unicorn Patrol: 2006 Audi S4 Avant

I’ve previously made fun to the term “Unicorn” as it relates to selling…well, pretty much any of the cars we feature on these pages. Truth told, as special as you think your car is, it’s really just one of probably a fairly large number of cars just like it out in the wild. Yet that doesn’t stop the P.T. Barnum’s of the used-car market from touting how unusual it is to see their particular circus attraction. In fact, many times it seems to be considered the main selling point:

Salesman: Now that you’ve selected all your other options, I’m going to tell you about one final “dealer special” option we can offer you – but it’s only for select, and discerning customers!
Rich Plebian: Uh, okay, what is it?
S: It’s the not offered to public “Unicorn” option
RP: “Unicorn”? Like, horned mythological beast?
S: Yes, exactly. The Unicorn Package is option code 785.
RP: Okay, what does it get me?
S: You get to tell everyone how unique your mass-produced car is.
RP: Wait, it gives me special powers?
S: No, you just get to say that your car is more special than the other cars that are exactly like it.
RP: Well, people have always told me how special I am, so sign me up!

So here we are again. In the sales pitch for this 2006 Audi S4 Avant, “Unicorns are real” appears. The question is – is this really something you never see, and is it the horned mythological beast you’ve been looking for?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2006 Audi S4 Avant on eBay

Double Take Avant-Off: 2005 Audi A4 1.8T Ultra Sport v. 2007 Audi A4 2.0T Titanium

While ostensibly the S4 Avant was the top-trump in the A4 lineup for both the B6 and B7 series, there were two limited models which each have found a niche in the marketplace of people who might desire them even more than the bellowing V8 beast. While performance on the turbocharged models was much more sedate than the S4 out of the box, the ability to tune these cars up without the impending doom threat of the chain-failure-prone BBK 4.2 means there are a bunch of individuals specifically seeking out the early Ultra Sport or later S-Line Titanium Package models. Today we’ve got one of each – which would you choose?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2007 Audi A4 2.0T quattro Avant S-Line Titanitum Package on eBay

Ending Soon: What We’re Watching

Last week’s What We’re Watching post seemed to be a hit, so I’ve lined up another group of auctions. This time, they’re all affordable no reserve classics (or soon to be?). Care to wager on what each will sell at? Let’s start with a 5-speed Euro Porsche 928.

Click for Details: 1981 Porsche 928

It’s far from perfect, but here’s a 1981 Porsche 928 5-speed in Euro trim. The BBS wheels might look more at home on an early E39 540i, the paint is tired and the engine hasn’t run in some time (and what the heck is up with that shifter surround???) but hey, at time of writing the whole package can you yours for $3,000. Certainly it’s worth at least that in parts?

Click for Details: 1960 Volkswagen Bus

I said “affordable”, right? Well, with VIN tags of 23 Window Sambas selling for upwards of $11,000, this no reserve auction on a lovely restored ’60 seems like a deal. The color combination and condition are spot on, and it will be interesting to see where it ends.

Click for Details: 1993 BMW 740iL

Back to great values, and this 1993 BMW 740iL seems ready to please. It’s got lower mileage, the great E32 shape, a nice color combination and very good overall condition. Usually the big money has been reserved for the follow-up E38, so I think someone will get a great deal on this very nice ’93.

Click for Details: 1988 BMW M5

There’s been a lot of speculation on the 80s BMW M market, so seeing a no reserve auction on an M5 is both rare and offers us the chance to litmus test the market. Usually the cars that come up in no reserve format aren’t the nicest ones out there, but this one generally looks great.…

2005 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Ultrasport

A couple of years ago I toyed with the idea of buying a B6 A4 for use as a daily driver. That’s pretty remarkable since I’m not a huge Audi fan (though I do love the D2 S8). I admire these cars for their restrained, modernist styling, which has stood the test of time pretty well. The problem was, I only wanted one particular trim level, the Ultrasport, and I couldn’t find one in my price range that I was happy with. The Ultrasport (“USP”) package was available as an $2,950 option on A4s produced between 2004 and 2005. It added Audi’s 1BE sport suspension, 18″ “Celebration” RS4-style rims and a bodykit that included revised front and rear lower valences, door blades aluminum trim, a special perforated leather steering wheel and a subtle decklid spoiler. The USP package made the plain A4 look a bit more like an S4, and for me that was the major attraction. But ultimately, I decided to go in a different direction. I bought my E34 BMW instead, and in nearly 30k miles of driving I have had nothing go wrong with it. I’m not sure I could say the same, had I bought the A4. Still, these cars continue to grab my attention. I think a well-chosen example could make a stylish commuter for those prepared to put up with the servicing costs associated with Audis of this era.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2005 Audi A4 1.8T Ultrasport on LA Craigslist

Signature Color Face-Off: 2004 v. 2007 Audi S4 Avants

The S4 Avant is no stranger to these pages, offering enthusiasts a “have-your-cake-and-throw-it-squarely-at-that-M3-owner’s-face-too” package which combined functionality and sport in a very discrete wrapper. Well, for the most part they were discrete; most were ordered in shades of gray because a fair amount of people ponying up new were conservative with everything but the money they were paying for this small executive wagon. Lightly optioned, an S4 Avant was north of $50,000 in 2004, a price today that would having you knocking on the A7 and S6’s base price. That sticker shock masks that the B6 and B7 represented a huge price increase over the B5 generation; out the door, the cost on average about 20% – 30% more only 3 years later – but then, they offered a full 90 horsepower advantage over the twin-turbocharged V6 with that awesome 4.2 V8, which of course could still be combined with a 6-speed manual gearbox. Subtle though the exterior colors may be, the performance on tap was anything but.

But some enterprising individuals chose the vivid colors which had become the signature of the model in B5 form. Nogaro Blue Pearl Effect was, of course, the go-to for all things fast Audi since it was originally called RS Blue on the original super Avant RS2. But a nearly equal amount were requested in Imola Yellow, a staggering, retina-burning banana-toned shade that seems initially out of character with a family wagon, yet raises the cool-bus level to 11. Though Nogaro was replaced in the B7 chassis refresh with Sprint Blue Pearl Effect, Imola carried over for the end of the V8s.

Today, I have one of each – so which is your style?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Audi S4 Avant on eBay

2004 Audi S4 Avant

1I always thought of the B6 as the compact executive sedan for people a little too quirky to buy a 3-series or a C-class (a bit like a Saab). The handsome, turn-of-the-millennium design has aged well and continues to exude a note of well-heeled class even today. While humdrum four and six cylinder examples can be picked up very cheaply for everyday commuting duties, it’s the high-performance S4 version that really gets the pulse racing. Wearing some sporting exterior upgrades – door blades, redesigned bumpers, chromed wing mirror covers and, usually, 18″ Avus wheels – it remains a rather understated car in outward appearance. But squeezed under the hood is a thumping 4.2 liter V8, good for nearly 340 hp and 155 MPH on the Autobahn. Rev it hard and this thing pulls like a freight train. While the drawback of the B6 was always its questionable reliability and build quality, that motor, combined here with a six speed manual gearbox in a wagon bodystyle, might just be enough to make up for it.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Audi S4 Avant on eBay

Tuner Tuesday: 1986 Alpina B6 2.7

$65,000 for an E36?Bullsh*t!“, most of you are probably saying. That money should be reserved for true classics or brand new models. Heck, you can get a perfect condition, lightly used M4 for $65,000 even in a cool color. But anyone can walk down to a dealer and get a brand new car. You’re an enthusiast, which means you enjoy the purgatory of older car ownership. Few of your non-automobile related friends understand why you like old, smelly, slow, uncomfortable, often in need of repair hunks of metal and plastic. “It’s just a car”, they say. But it’s not just a car to you – it’s an identity, a feeling, a Joie de vivre those who don’t know will never have. It doesn’t matter that they don’t understand, because you understand. So you take that $65,000 that you could have spent on a brand new, ultra-flash and ultra-fast M4 but you don’t spend it on an ultra-obscure two decade-old E36, because they’re not worth that much – obviously. No, you instead spend it on a sure thing, a car that isn’t a flash in the pan, a recession-proof investment-grade BMW like….an E30?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Alpina B6 2.7 on eBay

2008 Volkswagen Passat 3.6 4Motion Variant

On paper, the Passat W8 4Motion Variant like the one I wrote up early in August was the enthusiast with a family’s dream; an understated, all-wheel drive eight cylinder wagon with BBS wheels, smart styling and a not-outrageous asking price. I mean, it wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t RS7 money. You could even get a manual. But it was complicated, and ultimately, it was still a $40,000 Passat. The W8, while silky smooth, also was a bit underwhelming in the power department. Out of 4 liters, despite all the engine trickery, it produced only 270 horsepower – only 20 more than its contemporary 2.7 V6 twin-turbo sibling S4/Allroad/A6s could. In many ways, while the model that replaced it seemed a bit more tame in the headline department, it’s actually the one to get:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 Volkswagen Passat 3.6 4Motion Variant on eBay

Ultrasport Faceoff: 2005 Audi A4 1.8T quattro v. 2004 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Avant

a4usp1

I see B6 platform A4s all the time in DC, often driven by young people in their mid to late twenties. I tend to assume that many of them are hand-me-downs from wealthy parents who live in the affluent suburbs. When equipped with all-wheel drive, these cars make for competent year-round daily drivers ideal for the mid-Atlantic climate, and they still give off that expensive, German vibe even though by now they are relatively inexpensive to buy. But while the overall design remains attractive, I think the standard models can look a bit plain. If, like me, you prefer the sportier looks of the S4, but don’t want to deal with the possibility of the $8k timing chain job that afflicts the 4.2 V8 motor, the next best thing is a regular A4 equipped with the Ultrasport package. Available as a factory option, this added S4-style door blades, revised front and rear bumpers, sports suspension and 18″ multispoke “celebration” RS4-style wheels. So equipped, the ordinary looking A4 is instantly transformed into a sportier, more aggressively styled car. The USP package was available on both sedan and wagon models, and for today’s post I’ve written up one of each.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2005 Audi A4 1.8T Quattro Ultrasport on Craigslist

2008 Volkswagen Passat 3.6 4Motion Variant

When it comes to sporty wagons in the mid 2000s, your only options were really Audis and BMWs, right? Well, wrong – because Volkswagen dropped one pretty hot sleeper on our shores before elimination of the Passat wagon from the lineup. Granted, Volkswagen’s hottest entrant into the sport wagon market – the R36 – wouldn’t come here, but the normal 3.6 4Motion was darn close. With 280 horsepower on tap from the enlarged narrow-angle VR6 channeled through all four wheels, the unassuming Passat was the second most powerful wagon offered on these shores from VAG. Unless you spent another 50% to opt for the Audi S4 V8, this was as quick as U.S. bound German wagons got. Unlike the B5/5.5, the B6 chassis returned to the Golf-based platform, which was both a blessing and a curse. From a performance standpoint the change was a good one, as many of the items intended for the R32 model worked on the Passat now. However, the change to transverse engine placement from the inline Audi setup in the B5/5.5 meant that the “true” quattro drivetrain in the earlier 4Motions was replaced by the Haldex setup found in the R32 and Audi TT. Is this the end of the world? No, not really, and in fact because of this change you can opt to alter the power distribution with aftermarket control units. These 3.6 models were expensive and fully loaded, so they’re somewhat infrequently seen and generally unknown and unappreciated even in the German-specific realm:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 19 on eBay